The Cubs avoided salary arbitration with one player Wednesday and welcomed back another.
They agreed on a one-year, $850,000 contract with backup catcher Koyie Hill, avoiding salary arbitration. The Cubs also signed outfielder Reed Johnson to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training as a nonroster player.
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Johnson, 34, played for the Dodgers last year. He was with the Cubs in 2008-09.
Hill, 32, is the main backup to No. 1 catcher Geovany Soto. Last year Hill had a hitting line of .214/.254/.298 when he made $700,000. His strength is that pitchers seem to like throwing to him.
"It's been nice," Hill said of his stay in the organization, which began in 2007. "A lot of the way I was raised and a lot of the way I go about things, from year to year, it's an easy relationship. I really appreciate everything the Cubs have done for me and my family. It's been an honest and a fair relationship and process the whole time... From the bottom of my heart, I would probably scrape everything I had to pay, to get a chance to do this."
Hill also praised manager Mike Quade.
"He's not just showing up and putting a lineup up," Hill said. "He's literally part of the group. He shows up. He has lunch with us. He's doing the caravan. He's just one of us, and that goes a long ways.
"The thing I like about our situation is our manager is a huge advocate of fundamentals, so I feel like we're going to go out there with a chance to win a game every day if we play fundamental baseball."
The Cubs have four arbitration-eligible players still unsigned: pitchers Sean Marshall, Carlos Marmol and Tom Gorzelanny and Soto.
Marshall attended Wednesday's kickoff of the Cubs' winter caravan and expressed optimism he would sign without a hearing. He added he has settled in the northern suburbs and would like to remain a Cub for years.
Right-hander Andrew Cashner sounded happy to be thrown into the mix for a job in the starting rotation. Cashner made his major-league debut last May and appeared in 53 games, all in relief.
"I'd like to start," Cashner said. "I was real excited. They've kept me in the loop this whole off-season. I talked to Mark (pitching coach Riggins) a couple days before the (Matt) Garza trade, and I thought we were going to have a really good bullpen. And they told me I was still going to get a chance to start."
Cashner added he and lefty James Russell, also a young candidate for the rotation, would be heading out together next week for Arizona to get a jump on spring training.